Information is not knowledge. Learning is not education. What you learn in a classroom or a course means nothing without integration and application.
Today, students across the country walked out of their classrooms at 10 am for 17 minutes as part of the National School Walkout. The purpose was to remember the 17 victim’s of last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and advocate for gun control.
Apparently, the plans for this walkout created a tension at many schools, with some administrators threatening students who participated in the walkout with suspension and other harsh disciplinary action.
I had trouble understanding the hard-line position taken by some principals with respect to this walkout. These students are at the forefront of catalyzing massive change in our culture.
I immediately thought of that line, falsely attributed to Mark Twain, but actually said by Grant Allen:
Never let schooling interfere with education. — Grant Allen
What is the Purpose of an Education?
The one continuing purpose of education, since ancient times, has been to bring people to as full a realization as possible of what it is to be a human being. — Arthur W. Foshay, The Curriculum Matrix: Transcen- dence and Mathematics, Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 1991
My educational experience is particularly relevant in this context. I attended high school at The Ramaz School in Manhattan. Ramaz is known for both rigorous academics and a commitment to social and political activism. As written on the school’s website:
In keeping with our mission, Ramaz has a longstanding tradition of social activism and a commitment to doing chesed [acts of loving-kindness], beginning in nursery and continuing through the Upper School years. As part of its pledge to engage with the world around us, the School carries on the legacy of activism that the RaMaZ himself sparked in the early 1930s. This spirit of activism was rekindled in the 1960s as the school culture came to emphasize political awareness, Jewish consciousness, and social reform — a culture that endures today. In the ’70s and ’80s, students became actively involved in the Soviet Jewry movement, attending political demonstrations and rallies, as they continue to do today on behalf of the State of Israel and other causes. The last twenty years have also witnessed the rise of a re-invigorated social activism within the New York community as students prepare daily food collections, work in soup kitchens, and help developmentally disabled youth. Ramaz has always sought not only to educate children, but to train the leaders of tomorrow. (emphasis added)
At Ramaz, activism and community involvement were not just things I learned about in the classroom; they were instilled as values through action. On any given day, our class schedule might be disrupted so that we could participate in a protest.
Far from disrupting my education, these events were integral to it.
What is an Education?
Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. — Albert Einstein
In the 25 years since I graduated from high school, I have forgotten much of what I learned in my high-school classrooms (sorry, teachers!). But there is one lesson that has endured through time:
What you learn in the classroom is not your education; it’s the set-up for your education. Your education is the process of going out into the world beyond the school’s walls and applying what you learn.
Classroom time is important. But what you learn in the classroom is of little relevance if you don’t apply it to life.
Education = Information + Integration
Values — the precepts we hold to be most important — cannot be taught. They must be lived.
As a leader and a teacher, if you want to instill in others a particular ethos or way of life, it is not enough to give them information while they passively sit behind a desk and take notes. You must empower them to integrate this information through action and application outside the classroom.
Our Education Never Ends
Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself. — John Dewey
Student is not a role we shed at graduation. It’s a role we must nurture for life. Both within formal schooling and beyond, we must take responsibility for our education. This would seem to be easy in today’s connected world. We have an endless array of books, podcasts, seminars, and e-courses to facilitate our continuing education. We have access to the best teachers and professors from around the world.
But if you believe that reading or attending a seminar counts as “learning” or education, you’re making the same mistake as the shortsighted principals.
Books, podcasts, seminars, and courses are merely sources of information. They provide the set-up for our education.
Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is embodied. Information becomes knowledge only through action and application.
Education requires integration.
Creating opportunities for this integration is how we empower ourselves as leaders, and it’s how we can empower the next generations to lead.